When we first set out to modify Project Red Storm, our four-wheel-drive, regular-cab shortbed pickup truck, the goal was simple: we wanted to build a 9-second capable hauler that retained street-type manners with masterful drivability. Thanks to the tuning efforts of Ken Osborne of Oz Tuning and several well-thought-out suspension tricks, we did exactly that.
However, no project vehicle is complete without ancillary parts to tune up the appearance and create that “just-right-but-not-too-much” look that captures the eye but doesn’t scream overkill or gaudy modifications.
With that mantra in mind, Red Storm owner David Lukason set out to improve Red Storm’s visuals and finish off the truck in a way that appealed to his sense of fulfillment, that edge that causes him to turn around and take one last look when parking Red Storm in a lot. You know, that feeling we all want — a vehicle that appeals to our visual sense of awesome as much as it appeals to the butt-o-meter.
“I’m not a flashy guy, I let my actions speak for me… this is exactly how we built this truck, very subtle, yet very quick, and adding some minor touches to the exterior to set it apart from every other F-150 out there,” says Lukason.
Covering The Bed
One of the most significant investments any truck owner can make is to close off the bed area with a cover to protect valuable items that may find their way into the bed during a trip. There are many options here: a soft tonneau cover, a roll-up style cover, and the one we chose after careful consideration for the intended usage of Red Storm: the BAKFlip MX4 segmented tonneau cover [PN BAK-448327] from American Trucks.
The BakFlip MX4 is a premium hard folding cover that offers access to nearly the entire truck bed when folded against the cab. So if you’re loading up a deck’s worth of lumber (although who can afford that these days?), there won’t be any issues accessing the bed real estate to make it happen.
Each of the BAKFlip MX4 panels is manufactured from lightweight aluminum for strength and is finished in a matte black powder coat to provide a streamlined, eye-pleasing appearance. The no-drill installation uses mounting rails with integrated drains (and front-side drain tubes) to keep the bed clean and dry.
One of the neat touches of the BAKFlip MX4 cover is that it can be propped open with a set of struts for bed access. The truck is drivable with the BAKFlip placed against the cab as the rubber bumpers on the top side ensure that the cab doesn’t get scratched when the cover is open.
“The quality, fitment, and ease of use of BAKFlip tonneau covers is always great. This cover can be installed in 20 minutes with two people,” says Lukason.
The locking mechanism ensures that the bed cannot be accessed when the tailgate is locked, protecting the cargo from theft and damage. And it also works simply — as the user closes the panels, each one latches into place, and the last one locks tight — with an easy-operation string latch for simple opening.
Perhaps the best part is that it’s simple to install. With essential hand tools like a wrench and socket set, the BAKFlip takes about an hour to secure into place and provides your cargo with a secure place for transport.
“I’ve used Bakflip tonneau covers on all of my trucks over the years; being able to keep things safely out of view from the public is imperative, especially in a regular-cab truck,” says Lukason.
Bright Lights, Big City
It is easier than ever to improve the lighting on a vehicle when the factory lighting is deemed insufficient. In years past, drivers were limited to a different type or brand of lightbulb that was often a pain in the rear to install — don’t touch it or the oils from your fingers will make it explode! As such, improving a vehicle’s factory lighting was typically best left to auxiliary fog lamps or other secondary bulbs.
Today, thanks to companies like ANZOUSA and its engineering team’s investment into improving factory lighting capabilities with all-new head- and taillight assemblies, it is much easier to not only see at night but also dial the exterior appearance of a vehicle to 11 from its factory appearance.
ANZO offers 11 different headlight housing styles for the 2018-’20 Ford F-150 platform, and Lukason chose the Projector Light Bar Style Switchback housings [PN 111398] to best complement the front-end appearance of the F-150.
“Since I ordered a base model truck, I did not have the option for better lighting. I reached out to Anzo to see what they had available to help set Project Red Storm apart from every other F-150 out there. They didn’t disappoint with these stylish lights,” says Lukason.
These utilize a clear lens and black housing, with wide white/amber switchback LED halo channels running around the inner perimeter curve of the housing to provide excellent visibility. The running LED halo is white, and when turn signals are activated, the LED halo turns amber to notify oncoming traffic of the impending turn. An LED turn signal indicator also illuminates in the outer corner of the housing.
ANZO built these projector-style housings for F-150s that do not have the factory LED headlights and include H7 high- and low-beam bulbs to light up the road.
Installation of these headlight housings involves a couple of flathead screwdrivers, a 3/8-inch ratchet, a 3/8-inch extension, and the ever-present 10mm socket, along with an hour or two of your time depending upon your mechanical aptitude.
Along with the headlight housings, Lukason also selected new taillight housings to distinguish Red Storm from a sea of F-150s on the road. The Anzo LED Taillights in black complement the striking red exterior of Red Storm and offer super-bright LEDs to warn the traffic behind that the driver is coming to a stop. The clear lens combines with the black housing and LED bars to improve visibility in all conditions.
Monitoring The Vital Signs
One of the most valuable items in this entire build is Raxiom’s Vent Integrated OBD-II Multi-gauge [PN T528310]. It has a ton of useful features, and Raxiom designed it to look right at home in the F-150’s interior by replacing the left-side factory vent.
The digital vent gauge offers real-time system monitoring, reads boost and vacuum through the OBD-II connection, and quickly reads and clears diagnostic trouble codes.
But that’s not all: it also has a peak recall for all functions to see where a parameter may be out of whack, along with 15-second record and playback capabilities. What might someone who owns a truck such as Red Storm do in less than 15 seconds? We’ll leave that guessing game up to you, wink-wink.
“We’ve all seen the Mustangs and diesel trucks with gauge pods all over the place. That’s not my style. This digital gauge allows you to see all the information of multiple “round” gauges in a very convenient package all with the push of a button,” says Lukason.
The multi-gauge also tracks 0-60 elapsed times and even has a programmable shift light onboard. Best of all, installation is plug-and-play. Since the gauge comes with the factory-style vent housing already attached, it’s a matter of popping out the old vent, feeding the wiring to the appropriate place, plugging the control box into the OBD-II port, and enjoying the unit’s capabilities. The multi-gauge can be wired to work with the dimmer switch on the dash, has two additional analog inputs, and offers an analog boost sensor connection should you choose to use that method of monitoring boost.
- Coolant temperature
- Air intake temperature
- Ignition timing (real-time)
- Throttle plate position
- RPM readout
- Road speed (direct from vehicle speed sensor)
- 0-60 elapsed time
- Battery voltage
The Raxiom multi-gauge finishes off the understated interior and gives Lukason a look into Red Storm’s operating parameters when necessary, although we suspect he leaves it on the 0-60 or record/playback readouts, for obvious reasons.
Red Storm Is Complete
This fourth and final round of modifications wraps up Project Red Storm’s time with us here at FordMuscle. It has been a productive project, showcasing several items that appeal to the F-150 owner whilst achieving near-stratospheric performance levels and remaining streetable in the process. To recap: Round one of mods included the Whipple Superchargers installation, round two captured the details of JD Performance’s E85 fuel system, more boost, Kooks exhaust mods, and more Oz Tuning and dyno testing. Round three covered the MaxTrac / QA1 suspension upgrades, Asanti wheels and Toyo tires, and other driveline modifications from Eaton, JR Reel Driveline, and Stifflers.
All in all, Project Storm has brought the heat without overdoing it; Lukason now has the 9-second-capable truck he envisioned and shared with us all.
“This has been a great project. We’ve had some setbacks due to COVID-19, but we powered through and delivered exactly what we were hoping for — a 9-second daily driver that looks incredible and can still function as it was intended to do. Thank you to all the people involved in this project, it’s been a pleasure,” says Lukason.